Tracey Thorn:

The true reward of making a Christmas album lies in becoming part of people’s annual traditions. I released Tinsel and Lights in 2012, so this will be its third outing on the festive turntable, and I am already getting tweets telling me that it has been fetched out of the box in the loft, along with the actual tinsel – all scruffy with bits of Sellotape that fixed it to someone’s bedroom wall last year.

I’ve never made a Christmas album, but I do share a Christmas mix every year, and a few people have complained that it’s late this year, so that’s nice. (Here it is.) I enjoy the process of digging up new versions of old favourites, and finding a few nice ones in the deluge of dross. Sadly, this year Suburban Sprawl quit publishing their usual holiday sampler. Fortunately, you can still listen to the archive, including my all-time favourite Christmas song, Will Yates’ Third-Grader Confronting the Possibility that Santa Doesn’t Exist.

Ayn Rand reviews children’s movies:

“101 Dalmatians”
A wealthy woman attempts to do her impoverished school friend Anita a favor by purchasing some of her many dogs and putting them to sensible use. Her generosity is repulsed at every turn, and Anita foolishly and irresponsibly begins acquiring even more animals, none of which are used to make a practical winter coat. Altruism is pointless. So are dogs. A cat is a far more sensible pet. A cat is objectively valuable. —No stars.

Reverse engineering the Beatles:

The mathematical tale of the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Chord is a tale of 18th century mathematicians, the study of heat, Karaoke tricks and a measure of luck.

Waleed Aly on the Martin Place tragedy:

There is only a man, a gun and a flag. The man and the gun we’ve seen before. Indeed, we’ve seen it horrifically often: in Belgium just hours after Martin Place; at Port Arthur. But the flag – that changes things. It lends this the apocalyptic timbre that drives us so mad. It’s the thing in this episode that does the least damage – and the most.

At last, America learns how to make a decent coffee… But this line: “a macchiato is kind of a latte in reverse, with the espresso added to the milk” is dead wrong. That is an abomination.

For example, in Western Australia, this is almost always a double shot latte. If you serve the drink this way, the majority of your customers will get what they want, though you’re always going to disappoint a few.

The easiest way to take an order for a long macc in [Western] Australia is to ask the customer whether they would like it topped up. If the customer gives you a weird look, you might predict that they are after something completely different…

Let’s look at a macchiato. It’s an Italian word meaning stain or mark. Keeping in mind the huge espresso drinking culture in Italy, it’s safe to translate that a macchiato is an espresso with a little bit (stain) of milk. How much milk? Hmmm, well, I would say a dash. Some might say a splash, cold, warm, spoonful, foamy — it’s open to interpretation, it’s basically just a little bit of milk. My preference is a dash of hot milk, which smoothes out any edge to the espresso and adds a bit of body and sweetness.

Fortunately, that seems to be a problem specific to WA. Since moving to Melbourne I’ve never been asked about “topping up” a macchiato — t’othersiders just make it properly, with a stain of milk.

I get email that’s meant for two other Robert Corrs who think my email address is theirs. One is in Dublin and racks up a lot of toll road infringements; the other is in Texas and buys a lot of hardware. I’m just glad my surname’s not Smith…

The house contained what, in the end, was said to have been more than a hundred and seventy tons of debris. There were toys, bicycles, guns, chandeliers, tapestries, thousands of books, fourteen grand pianos, an organ, the chassis of a Model T Ford, and Dr. Collyer’s canoe… the rooms were packed almost to the ceilings, but the mass, like a Swiss cheese, was pierced by tunnels, which Langley had equipped with booby traps to foil burglars. It was in one of those tunnels that his corpse, partly eaten by rats, was finally discovered…

We’re moving house, and packing feels like this.

It’s hard to disagree with Julian Burnside, who says “Australia appears to have abandoned its commitment to the [Refugee] convention, without actually withdrawing from it”. He points out that three word slogans hide the true brutality of Australian policy:

They say they have stopped the boats. That is largely true; with a couple of exceptions, boats have stopped arriving. But we know they have not stopped setting out from Indonesia. We have been pushing them back. We are not allowed to know how many have drowned on those boats. It is an “on-water matter”, and so remains a secret.

This is not merely a lawyer’s hypothetical. It is something that has been specifically alleged by one of Scott Morrison’s naval officers:

She said the captains of naval ships were told not to board asylum seeker vessels until they were in Australian waters, and the crews and passengers were then subject to Australian migration law.

She claims that on at least one occasion, an asylum seeker vessel sank as a result.

“In the incident that I’ve described where the boat overturned and people died, that pressure came from Canberra,” she said.

Of course, that was buried in a story about sailors’ mental health. Refugee deaths aren’t important enough for their own news coverage.


Our courts and juries aren’t impartial arbiters—they exist inside society, not outside of it—and they can only provide as much justice as society is willing to give.

A Brief History of Graphics is a an interesting documentary series. It’s as simple as a narrator talking over a montage of gameplay footage, and it’s interesting to watch the evolution unfold. My one complaint is that it becomes a bit of a chronology of game titles, with no sense of the people who created the graphics. By contrast, Diggin’ in the Carts uses interviews with composers and musicians to give a real sense of the social and cultural influences and impacts of video game music.

Ursula K Le Guin accepts a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (transcript):

We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. … We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.

Liam Hogan writes persuasively on the popularity of light rail:

Trams are a physical symbol of specific kinds of local and state/territory government policy: long-term, because of rail’s inflexibility; developmentalist, because the economics demands it; environmentalist, because they run on electricity; and pump-priming in a Keynesian way that, unlike the shiny vehicles themselves, has for 30 years been distinctly unfashionable. We argue about light rail against buses, against cars, and against an infinite number of other modes.

All the engineering and economic assessment will not change the fundamental argument, though: it’s about imagination, and permanence, and commitment by the state to urban areas.

The same goes for big road projects, like the East-West Link, which is clearly not about the economics or the Government wouldn’t be hiding the independent analysis it commissioned. Just like trams, it’s about a specific vision for the future of Melbourne’s urban environment.

…by definition this case is “out of the ordinary”. Indeed it is at the extreme limits of what is “out of the ordinary”.

This is an incredible case: a lawyer pretended to work for his client for three years, fabricating letters and file notes and court orders, pretending to brief a QC, and even faking transcript of a court hearing. Three years! Read the judgment from [12] to [105] to see just how intricate his imaginary litigation was.

Chris Maisano remembers the days of full employment:

In one telling anecdote from the period, an assembly-line worker at GM who skipped work nearly every Monday is confronted by his foreman. When asked why he only worked four days a week, the worker replied: “Because I can’t make a living working three days.” Who would have the audacity to say that today?

These days we can’t even knock off when we’re supposed to: “The average full-time worker is doing six hours of unpaid overtime each week”. Happy Go Home on Time Day.

Last week the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs declared that pre-1788 Australia was “nothing but bush”, and the European arrivals “must have thought they’d come almost to the Moon”. Unfortunately it seems history education at VCE level is taking a similar approach, as Elizabeth Muldoon and Gary Foley point out:

Koorie [H]istory will be cut due to declining enrolments. This leaves the one-year Australian history course as the only way for Victorian students to study Australian indigenous history in their final two years of secondary school. …

Other aspects of the [Australian History] study design that erase indigenous perspectives from Australian history include its timeframe. Although there is no shortage of historical scholarship and indigenous knowledge of pre-1788 Australia, it presents Australian history as beginning with British invasion.

Also concerning is its use of the euphemism “settlement” to stand for “colonisation” or “invasion”.

Muldoon and Foley have previously criticised the K-10 Australian Curriculum for its poor treatment of Indigenous histories.

I’m enjoying Space Age on the iPad. Elevator pitch: an old-fashioned adventure game; Zelda meets The Dig.

Inspired by Virginia’s new blog, Articulint, I’ve decided to start blogging again. Let’s see how long it lasts.